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As with most forms of online business, e-commerce relies on user engagement as a massive driving force behind building customer loyalty, and ultimately impacting on the bottom line through increased sales.

If we sit on our haunches and wait for the business to roll in, the chances are we could be waiting a long time. Our potential customer base is huge, so all we need to do is to reach out to them. Being able to do this in e-commerce is no different from every day life – the key is to start a conversation.

There are plenty of ways to do this, with various online and offline channels, but in this modern, social media-focused world, building an online community around your brand is the best over reaching long term objective, even though it may not feel so simple to begin with.

Here’s another element of e-commerce that mirrors every day life – you rarely get something for nothing. And that’s why an effective solution to building an online community quickly is e-commerce contests. This guide will show you different ways of setting up contests which will enable you to begin to build an online community.

How should I set up an e-commerce contest?

Your product is a commodity – use it. If you have a product that you can give away, or maybe provide a discount on, this can serve as the winning prize in a contest. It also serves the purpose of promoting your product and positioning it as a desirable item or service at the same time.

There are plenty of options for setting up an e-commerce contest including using social media channels to run user generated content competitions and correct answer quizzes, or ready made contest platforms offered by the likes of Facebook and Strutta.

Start simple, build big

The nature of your e-commerce contest should always depend on your objective. If basic, top line, potential customer data is your main priority, consider a simple give-away. You could choose a desirable prize, preferably one of your own products, or something related to your product or service line. Then simply ask people to join your mailing list to be in with a chance of winning. It’s simple, effective, and if your prize is in demand, you can expect the entrants to start rolling in.

You could promote such a contest via your social media channels such as Twitter or Facebook, or choose a media partner which matches your target audience, and use their platform to reach new potential customers. Sometimes you will be asked to pay to run such a contest in the media, and other times the space can be provided for free as part of a contra deal.

Quizzes and polls

If you want to give your audience a challenge or canvas their opinion, consider using a quiz or poll. Not only is this often a more engaging way of data gathering, it is also conducive to ‘going viral’ (being shared across the internet) and can position you as a knowledgeable player in your sector.

The power of data

Depending on the nature of your quiz or poll, it could allow you to gather valuable customer research data, or better still directly drive sales. For example, if a football shirt manufacturer asks its audience which team they support, it can build up a picture of which products to market more heavily than others.

Facebook is your friend

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According to recent research from Marketing England, some 42% of people that like a brand on Facebook do so to receive discount coupons. This shows you the power of the world’s most popular social media channel. You can ask fans to ‘like’ or ‘share’ to be in with a chance of winning a prize, thereby benefiting from spreading the reach of the competition across Facebook, while promoting your brand and gathering potential customer details.

You will be able to promote your competition across Facebook in the same way you can boost a sponsored post. Just make sure you make use of Facebook’s wonderful ability to drill down demographics. Target the interests, geographical locations, ages and languages spoken by your target audience. And don’t forget to target the friends of your existing ‘fans’.

Strutta

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Strutta is billed as a DIY contest platform, and is growing in popularity. It provides a step-by-step process for the building of your online contest, even including an option to create a website. Conveniently, its regulations ensure that e-commerce businesses are covered legally before running the contest.

Contests range from user generated structures such as sending in videos or photos (complete with a set up for the judging process) to more complex data gathering contests which require the user to pay extra in order to access leads generated as a result.

And the rest

Strutta is very impressive, but there are a whole host of other platforms for e-commerce competitions that you should not ignore, including Punchtab, Wazoku, Rafflecopter and WizHive.

Check them all out before deciding which to plump for. Punchtab encourages social posts as a part of competitions, and allows you to analyse interaction in a very clear way. Rafflecopter is a big time saver, letting you launch a competition within minutes – it could be your best bet for simple giveaways.

Wazoku offers a competition tool as part of its range of ‘idea management software’. The tool is actually a lot more simple than it sounds, and can be seen in a demo on the Wazoku site. Last but not least, WizHive claims to the web’s number one platform for contests and prides itself on enhanced management processes and personalisation options.

All in all, e-commerce businesses should be treating contests as something they do as a matter of course. The opportunities to build your brand, reach a new audience, extract data, build your online community, engage your followers and keep your content current and entertaining, are just too good to turn down. It is worth investing time in researching the different platforms available in order to find the right one for your business.

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